Why 40% of workers want to leave their job

Burnout, purpose, and wellness are top of mind after a tumultuous year

July 06, 2021

Before the pandemic, people were choosing to leave their jobs at the fastest rate on record, mostly for higher pay and promotions. The pace slowed amid uncertainty during the last year. But now, with vaccinations rates rising and signs of economic recovery, people are again itching to make a change.

More than 40 percent of respondents in the Work Trend Index, a global survey of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries, said they are considering leaving their employer in 2021.

“Companies are expecting a turnover tsunami,” says Peter Miscovich, Managing Director, Strategy + Innovation, Consulting, JLL.

In the battle for talent, what plans are firms making to retain staff?

Read on for three experts in JLL’s Work Dynamics group discussing careers, burnout, technology, and what comes next.

To start this conversation off, why exactly are people looking for new jobs?

Peter Miscovich (PM): Many people today are concerned about their career advancement and their long-term professional growth. Many are seeking new skills and capabilities, possibly to prepare for future career changes. Still others, having tasted what remote and flexible work is like, these folks want greater flexibility for the longer-term. And then there are those people who are looking for a strong connection to the company’s purpose and values – people seeking corporate cultures that are more fully aligned with their true values.

Julie Wilkinson, Global Product Owner, Workplace Experience, JLL (JW): I’d also point out that oftentimes there’s a mismatch between people’s career aspirations and their day job. When they have a moment to breathe they can reflect and decide how to course correct. The pandemic was that extended moment to breathe.

So it’s not just people wanting to change jobs, then. It’s about changing careers?

JW: What I’m seeing in my work is, yes, many people are actually seeking a whole new career, not just a different employer. It's a case of, “I want to go to nursing school after working as a project manager.”

The pandemic was stressful and a lot of people are feeling burned out. They are, in some cases, even willing to take a pay cut for more balance in their lives.

How much of this is related to a shift in values that people now expect?

PM: Quite a bit of this shift is related to the shift in people’s values. During a recent client executive leadership session, we landed on three key traits that leadership teams within organizations must express to attract and retain talent: trust, empathy and humility. If leaders are not exemplifying these key traits, many people will look for these traits elsewhere within other organizations that will provide greater “empathic trust” from enlightened leadership that will exemplify these key traits.

JW: There are generational issues too. When teams are put in positions with heavy bureaucracy, it becomes immediately off-putting for Millennials and Generation Z, the latter of which is the generation most likely to be seeking a new employer. Working at home, these generations have had a hard time networking, or even getting a word in during video meetings. Part of this is their seeking the kind of mentorship that you get when sitting next to someone.

Ram Srinivasan Managing Director, Consulting, JLL (RS): Younger generations in the workforce also care the most about a company’s purpose. MIT Sloan recently conducted a survey of 4,000 managers and executives, and 72 percent said it is very important to them to work for an organization with a purpose they believe in, but only 49% said they believe in their organization’s purpose. And only 36% said they believe in their organization’s ability to advance its purpose.

This “purpose gap” suggests that leaders need more credibility around purpose to retain the workers that care about it most.


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So then, what can companies do to retain employees?

RS: There is a lot that leadership can do to bridge the purpose gap, and we have been advising on this more than ever. Organizations must create the environment to ignite collective ambition and shape a shared sense of purpose. Leaders must demonstrate trust through communication and policy alike. And companies provide the means for individuals to be successful wherever they chose to work. Work is after all something you do, not somewhere you go.

PM: Talent-centric companies will attract and retain talent by providing health and wellness support beyond typical benefits like paid time off and retirement plans. Companies who can fully support and enable the employee to the fullest degree will attract the best talent. Leaders who can express to talent: “I want you to be the best employee and best person that you can become – and as an organization - we are going to support you end-to-end, with flexible hours, great benefits, professional learning/training etc.” Organizations and leaders that take a more humanistic approach to enable and fulfill the “whole person” – these more empathic humanistic organizations will most likely win big in the future “talent wars.”

JW: I also think it’s important for companies combatting burnout to instill a culture that encourages taking breaks. When your company offers programs and tools that encourage well-being it takes away the “guilt” in setting aside time during the day to do a short meditation or stretch.

RS: I agree, breaks are key. The back-to-back meetings, especially virtually, are particularly draining. We recently reviewed brain scans of people in back-to-back meetings, versus people in meetings with breaks. The difference is huge.

What about the people who are leaving because they don’t see an obvious path for career advancement — what can companies do to retain those people?

PM: Companies need to consider new innovative ways to help upskill and reskill people. It’s important that employees feel they have a path forward to get promoted and to advance in their careers and gain compensation. Many people care deeply about financial resiliency and there is growing discontent among employees at present due to the lack of corporate financial support. This demonstrates that many companies are not doing enough to make sure that people feel financially secure. Companies will need to provide employees with a clear path forward to buy a home, to educate their children and to financially take care of their families —which is so much harder for today’s younger people than it was in the past.

One last question: how does the physical workplace play into retaining and attracting talent?

RS: Organizations must create experience parity for in-office, hybrid and remote workers. Experience must be frictionless. For example, one of our clients referenced the Sunday versus Monday experience. Sunday, you are at home watching Netflix, seamlessly switching between devices. On Monday, you walk into the office, and you can't connect your laptop to a projector. If we think about a hybrid meeting with people in-office collaborating with those working remotely, will those in the meeting room have better conversations? Will those working remotely begin to experience FOMO? To attract and retain top talent, companies will need their technology to be seamless across the hybrid work environments, which levels the playing field for employees.

Thanks everyone.

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